Wolfgang Baur’s just made me a better Iron Dungeon Master in a mere hour with his masterfully written tome, Kobold’s Guide to Game Design Volume I: Adventures.
The 94 page tome of all things adventure writing feels like the dragon’s horde of game design articles written by one of the top ten game designers in the world (A list I will never write down in sequential order). As if having a legend like Baur explain his methods of game design to you was not enough, three other top ten game designers in the world Keith Baker, Nicholas Logue and Ed Greenwood, are contributors. After reading the first 20 pages, you would have gathered more understanding about how to write a talented adventure than you can DMing for two decades. If not for the fact that I have a reputation as a reviewer, I would see no need to write any other words other than “Wolfgang Baur writes a How to Design Adventures book with help from other gods of the RPG writing world.”
Adventures, published by Baur’s publishing company Open Design, is a series of short articles discussing various elements of adventure design. There are your typical chapters on world building and timing, and innovative chapters explaining subgenres of adventure such as noir and Arabian. An enjoyment of this book is Baur’s use of basic language and short, concise paragraphs. The writing never feels dry and you never get the sense that Baur’s ego is driving in the front seat. After reading it, and Volume 2, I felt like Baur came into my house, scooted my wife off the bed, and chatted with me for a couple hours. I then made us both breakfast as we laughed about figuring out how to use mobs properly in a game.
Adventures begins by explaining the three audiences that need to be impressed when pitching an adventure and discusses the writing industry. It then moves into the nooks and crannies of adventure writing presenting realism, world building, pacing and making layered adventures. The final few chapters discuss story telling and break down subgenres in RPG adventures.
The only flaw of the PDF are no navigation tools such as bookmarks and links. Though I saw little use in them as it is hard to put down on a first read, considering this is a reference tool, I would have liked a way to get back to chapters when I need them.
For the Aspiring Adventure Writer
No matter what level of game designer you are at, there is something to be learned somewhere in Adventures. One of my favorite chapters was How to Bring your Town to Life, a very strong section on adding mundane flavor. I knew it was my favorite chapter when I looked sheepishly at my current campaign notes and realized that my PCs home town lacked the depth of flavor that he was describing.
For the Dungeon Master
Even if you do not plan on beginning your journey into RPG writing anytime soon, this is as much a lesson in how to dungeon master as much as how to adventure write. Among the many mechanics Baur drops in this book, is a very useful one on handling Mob Hordes in 3.5.
The Iron Word
If you are thinking of writing adventures, for yourself or for publishing, The Kobold’s Guide to Game Design Volume I: Adventures is a book you should read, study, reread and sit in your writing area. Both as a guide to the boundaries of RPG writing and an inspirational motivator, Adventures will be as essential to you as your dictionary.
[5 of 5 Stars!]